How to Prevent Hacking: 15 Ways to Protect Data From Hacking

If you spend time online, it’s necessary to know how to prevent hackers from accessing your information. A hacking incident can be devastating; hackers can gain access to your accounts, take your money, and even commit identity theft. But if you know what to do to protect your data, it minimizes the risk of becoming a victim. In this article, learn the difference between the three types of hacking – white hat, gray hat, and black hat – and how you can prevent hackers through fifteen protection tips.

What is hacking?

Prevent hacking to avoid hackers invading your online privacy

Hacking is the practice of manipulating a person, device, or set of data to get unauthorized access to a computer network, online account, or other digital resource. It usually involves exposing cyber vulnerabilities in a system or device to evade any pre-established security measures and get full access.

Hackers use a variety of methods to reach their end goal. Social engineering, phishing techniques, malware, spyware, and brute force attacks are examples of ways hackers attempt to access others’ devices or information. Hacking is a threat to information security for most users and companies. However, in some cases, hacking – called “ethical hacking” – enhances a person's or business’ cybersecurity.

What are three types of hacking?

Though hacking is often considered entirely unethical and illegal, this isn’t always the case. There are three kinds of hacking: white hat hacking, gray hat hacking, and black hat hacking.

  • White hat hacking operates within legal and ethical bounds. This is considered “ethical hacking” as it’s used most often by companies to determine their own system vulnerabilities before another hacker does. This kind of hacking is legitimate, as it’s not illegally accessing information or trying to bring harm to any party.
  • Gray hat hacking is not exactly ethical hacking, but it isn’t as malicious as black hat hacking. Gray hat hackers try to expose a system’s vulnerabilities without permission, but once they find those weaknesses, they often report them to the company or system. They are essentially white hat hackers operating outside legal bounds.
  • Black hat hacking is what most picture when they think of hacking. Black hat hackers use their skills in malicious ways to illegally get access to systems, information, or services, all for personal gain. Black hat hacking causes damage and could result in long-term impacts for a person’s accounts, finances, or security.

Hacking can occur within ethical bounds, but for most people, hacking threatens their security and privacy.

What is ethical hacking

Ethical hacking, or white hat hacking, is hacking specifically authorized by a person or security professionals at a company in order to test the strength of their online privacy and computer systems. An ethical hacker still attempts to gain unauthorized access to a system or data, but the attempt itself is authorized.

If the ethical hacker is able to get into the system, it exposes security vulnerabilities that the company or organization can then fix. The goal is to find vulnerabilities before black hat hackers can get to them. Ethical hacking sounds dangerous, but when done correctly, it’s actually a benefit to the companies being hacked and helps them stop hackers.

15 ways to prevent hacking

Though hacking is an ever-present threat, there are many ways for online users to mitigate the dangers of hacking by being proactive. If you want to know how to prevent hacking, consider the list below.

  1. Use a firewall. Firewalls block unauthorized traffic from accessing your router, which means hackers can’t access sensitive information that travels over your network connection. Most home WiFi routers include a firewall. Log in to your router to see if it’s enabled.
  2. Perform software updates regularly. Software updates often contain important security patches, which fix vulnerabilities. Regularly updating your systems and software protects them.
  3. Use a password manager. Password managers keep all your passwords secure behind one master password. This makes your passwords easier to enter as well as safer.
  4. Use two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA adds an additional layer of security to your logins by requesting a code each time you log on. If someone tries to get into your account, they won’t be able to do so without the one-time-use code.
  5. Only download from trusted sites. Make sure all sites you visit use HTTPS rather than HTTP. This decreases your risk of unknowingly downloading a malicious attachment.
  6. Protect your IP address. Use a virtual private network to change your IP address online as an additional security measure.
  7. Don’t open unknown attachments or links. Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get to their victims. Therefore, if you receive a suspicious email or text with any kind of attachment or link, don’t open it.
  8. Use antivirus software. Like a firewall, antivirus software acts as a barrier around your device against external threats. Because man hackers use malware as a method to gain access to your device and information, use a good antivirus software program to ward off those threats.
  9. Don’t log into accounts on public devices. Though it may seem like common sense, don’t log into sensitive accounts that contain personal information on public computers or someone else’s device. This includes bank accounts and email accounts.
  10. Avoid free WiFi. Free or public WiFi networks are not secured. This means malicious hackers can potentially interfere with your connection and gain access to your device.
  11. Use a secure login on your devices. Make sure all your devices have strong passwords. If possible, use personal identification logins, like fingerprinting or Face ID.
  12. Set up a guest network. Though your guests may mean well, you don’t know what kinds of viruses or malware they could have on their computers. Setting up a guest network keeps guests’ devices separate, which helps safeguard your own devices and network.
  13. Use a private web browser. Private web browsers, like Tor, don’t save your search history. They also limit the use of cookies in a browsing session, which preserves your privacy.
  14. Optimize your privacy settings on social media. Making your accounts private and optimizing your privacy settings helps limit the amount of potentially compromising information hackers can get access to freely.
  15. Encrypt communication when you can. Using end-to-end encryption through encrypted email servers or apps like WhatsApp go a long way in protecting yourself and your information. It reduces the risk of message interception as send texts or email messages.

Following these fifteen tips will help you safeguard yourself online and prevent hacking, whether you’re an individual, a business, or a government. Enacting online safety and cybersecurity practices helps to protect all users and their information.